A good father, while he knows well how to discipline and guide his children to heaven, loves to play with his children. One game that has remained popular down through the centuries is the game of hide-and-go-seek. It is a game my nephews and nieces love and I’m sure I’ll be playing a lot of it in the coming hours!
This Christmas, I’d like us to think about our relationship with God as a game of hide-and-go-seek. In the history of our race, it was man who first hid from God. We know the story: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8).
And so it was that man began this game of hide-and-go-seek with his Creator. Man issued the challenge, and from that moment forward, through long centuries, the human race was like a frightened child feeling its way alone through the darkness, racked by a thousand causeless terrors, running and running and running away. Francis Thompson captured this beautifully in his poem The Hound of Heaven:
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Now when an adult plays hide-and-seek with a child, the child’s hiding place may seem quite obvious. I know this from playing the game with my niece Claire. She’ll usually hide in the same place I just hid when it was my turn to hide, and then the others will generally make some sound or stick some limb out that gives them away.
So it is with us. The Father knows where to find us. We aren’t that clever in our hiding places. He looks for us, well, as Jesus looked: in the busy calendars of our day, in the streets, the jails, the hospitals, our homes, schools, workplaces – our dreams and our failings and our hopes and our despairs. And even when we pretend he can’t see us, that he can’t find us there, he can. He has already found us.
Today at Christmas, we celebrate that – ready or not – God came to find us. He came in in the middle of the night, when the shepherds were securely settled in for the night with their sheep, when the 3 kings were off ruling their countries, when the animals were soundly sleeping. He came in the middle of it all. He came in the darkness, in the cold, and in poverty.
Ready or not, he came. And ready or not, he comes. We are still a people who walk in darkness as Isaiah so poetically puts it. We try and hide, but he comes for us. Our job is to let ourselves be found by him. To let him win.
And what about when it is God’s turn to hide? There is a sense in our readings today and throughout the whole of the Scriptures, that we have a part in this hide-and-seek game. It isn’t just God’s job to do the searching. Sometimes it’s ours and God does the hiding.
But like a good father, he hides in easy-to-find places. And not only that! His mother helps us in the search! I remember playing hide-and-seek with my own father, and how he’d find someplace to hide, and there would be my mom in the living room, quietly pointing to where Dad was hiding. So it is for us. Mary helps us in our search!
But God, he is hiding….and he hides in the clever disguise of bread and wine. He hides in the churches and tabernacles and adoration chapels of the world, in the monasteries and seminarians and convents – oh, but he doesn’t stop there. God is hiding EVERYWHERE. Because God is in EVERYTHING, and is EVERYWHERE! He’s even inside things that seem static; everything is energy you know. He is in the silence of a peaceful night.
God is EVERYWHERE. Our job to have the eyes to see him and embrace him everywhere. Our job is to set out like the shepherds and like the wise men, and get to looking. We may be surprised where we find him. But find him we will, for there is a promise from God about that in the Bible: “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened, ask and ye shall receive.”
And friends, when we find that Christ child, the same one who has been looking for YOU, when we find him – we find not only him, but everything with him.